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Miami Nice

Monday, Jul 11, 2011

Lisa Hu Barquist '89 Serves Clients and Community

by Darren Schenck

On a recent afternoon, Lisa Hu Barquist ’89 was at her home in Miami, nursing a bruised and battered right hand. A stray dog she had just rescued “turned out to be an alpha male” and attacked one of her other dogs, “who, as it turns out, is also an alpha male.” Barquist pulled the dogs apart but suffered several bites.

According to her friends and colleagues, the incident typifies Barquist: a generous and compassionate human being who is extremely focused and has “an indomitable will to win.”

Lisa Hu Barquist '89

A former federal prosecutor and currently a litigator with the boutique complex commercial litigation firm Payton & Associates, LLC, Barquist disregards the arm’s-length list of accomplishments that outline her career, preferring to praise her family, especially her mother. A native of China who fled to Taiwan, Li Chun Hsaio was spared the foot-binding her own mother endured and instead pursued an education. With her father’s support, she became a lawyer, an almost unheard-of achievement in her native country.

Barquist’s parents uprooted themselves again, moving to California when Lisa and
her twin sister, Wendy, were four years old.

“Like most immigrant parents, they came to this country so their daughters could have a better education and a better life,” Barquist says.

The sisters graduated from Yale University before returning to Los Angeles. Wendy attended medical school at USC, so Lisa — choosing to remain close to her sister— attended USC Law.

During summers, Barquist worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission in New York City, the district attorney’s office in Los Angeles and a private firm. Upon graduation, she returned to private practice, where she spent five successful but not necessarily fulfilling years.

“I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing,” says Barquist. “When my husband, a trauma surgeon, got a job in Miami, I saw that as a great opportunity to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

As a federal prosecutor, Barquist worked on cases involving everything from narcotics and money laundering to Medicare fraud. She says the work defied the clock-punching government job stereotype.

“We worked seven days a week, 16 hours a day,” she says. “I was lucky to work with people who were committed and devoted, who were also so smart and so funny. No one was doing it for the money.”

Barquist’s work ethic, intellect and commitment have served her well since her return to private practice. Harry Payton, principal of Payton & Associates, says upon meeting Barquist, he immediately was impressed.

“She was so pleasant, direct and focused,” he says. “I would describe Lisa as an honorable person. She’s a great team player, a hard worker and selfless. She also has an indomitable will to win.”

When she’s not doing complex commercial litigation, Barquist devotes much of her time to serving as an advocate for the Chinese-American community. The groups she has helped lead, and by whom she has been feted, include the Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Florida China Chamber of Commerce and the Chinese Cultural Foundation.

“I don’t see myself as taking a leadership role,” she says. “I see myself as being able to facilitate and provide resources to the Asian community.”

She explains: “There are many Chinese in Miami who don’t speak English and don’t know what services are available. Also, many of these people had no education even in their native country, so they are disenfranchised.”

Shawn Khosravi, chair of the Miami-Dade County Asian-American Advisory Board, has worked with Barquist for the past four years, most recently on raising and awarding $25,000 scholarships.

“I consider her a Superwoman. Her seriousness and hard work can only be matched by her enthusiasm and absolute commitment to get the job done,” he says. “Her ability to balance her personal life as a mom, a practicing attorney and a community activist is amazing.”

Despite her successes at work, in the community and even with finding homes for stray dogs, Barquist labors in the shadow of loss. When she moved to Miami, she left behind her sister, who four years ago went into cardiac arrest after being ill for several years. Wendy has been in a coma and on life support since.

“We all have issues and problems and sadness. No one has a monopoly on that,” Barquist says. “We continue with our lives. I raise my daughter as best I can, contribute to the community as best I can, help clients as best I can. I don’t see my life as different from anyone else’s.”

- From the Winter 2011 USC Law Deliberations

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